Monday, December 13, 2010

~ soulless machinations

Walking Polly to school today, there were more musk lorikeets than I have ever seen in Mt Waverley. I love these birds - so much sweeter and gentler than the brash, squawking rainbow lorikeets who vastly outnumber them.

This is the best I could do by way of photos.

About a month ago, the house was burgled while we were taking Polly to school. My camera was taken, and my ipod - two things I find it hard to live without - despite their being in such poor condition I doubt if our robber would have got a penny for them. Indeed, I cannot think of one item of loot he might have recouped on. Jenny’s wisdom tooth? My back pack? My car keys...?

People say the sense of invasion is the worst thing about house robberies. For me, it was the vision of what went on in the guy’s head ... the soulless machinations ... the utter lack of empathy ... Why did (he) give Polly’s room such particular treatment...? It would have been blatantly obvious that our household was low on valuables ... but still he went for the very little there was ... It’s saddening
to me that such dismal creatures live amongst us.

The bright side, however, is that I’ve replaced my camera - and can resume my record of Mt Waverley’s most meagre denizens. It continues to amaze me how such a cheap little device can reap such results ...

First, a blue-tail damselfly ...

an orchid dupe wasp ...

and some green grocer cicadas.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

~ lucas aid

Though I may have crystallised my brain in the aftermath, Thursday’s show came off pretty well. Perhaps there weren’t quite enough people there to deal entirely with Steve Lucas’s chronic back, but it was fulsome nevertheless. Every time I saw him, Lucas lay entirely prone on in one of the upstairs band rooms, his voice growly with painkillers, barely lifting his head as he pursued quiet conversation with his girlfriend, the singer of Dollsquad, who like the couch on which he lay was clothed head to toe in black vinyl. How he made it up the Geidi Prime-style industrial stairs to get there, I cannot imagine.

It was good to play a grungy down-to-earth gig. Morgen and Jane were there, and Nurin and Chrissie ... but there were lots of faces who haven’t seen us yet, in this latter day incarnation. Like every one of these new Ears shows it was ridiculously enjoyable, liberating, soul-lifting ... someone in the band-room pinned a badge on me that read ‘Music is Love’. It is love indeed, despite an occasional world shattering 120K hum on stage

And we got some of the most interesting reactions. Someone, it may have been Charlie Owen, said that when he arrived, during the Ears set, his interest was piqued by what he thought was some young interesting new band - that was until he saw the grey hair. Someone else excused the Nick Cave influence in my stage movements when he realised that everyone must have moved like that back then. Someone said we sounded like Muse but without the annoying whine. Even the enigmatic ‘Donald’ said he was ‘surprised’ and that he ‘didn’t mean it as an insult’. Kerry (Simpson), who has been filling in when Cathy McQuade can’t make it down from Sydney to do vocals, also got some really good reports.

Ashton Davey, who organised the show, deserves a word too.

My head feels full of cotton wool and I’m going to give up trying to string words together. A final thanks to Simon Polinski who during these past week has finished the masters of The Ears and Beargarden material now available for download on Bandcamp. It’s a satisfying feeling, a sense of resolution, making that music available again. It’s no longer orphaned, half-forgotten. And it’s about time The Ears released an album.

Below is a picture of me 'fixing up' some vocals at Simon's place. On Thursday someone actually asked me if I use botox! People say the weirdest things.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

~ pressure release

I realised the other day - perhaps belatedly - why I’m seeing so many old-fashioned cigarette cases, particularly in the hands of women. It’s the images of diseased flesh, of course, which the arbiters of social control place with good intent on the commercial packaging, Evidently, some have begun to weary of carrying about with them, on open display, these increasingly nasty, glutinous, decomposing visions of a possible future.

On a lighter note, my legal situation continues to look brighter. It’s strange that every single person I’ve told about my conundrums has said ‘you won’t lose your house, not for that’ - while the lawyers and the law itself said - if I was found guilty it would mandatorily be seized No discretion. Well my friends were right. The house appears safe. I can garden again. I can make it nice. I can get Robert to fix things without the horrible possibility looming that it would be torn from my hands.

Yesterday, in the County Court, I pled guilty to cultivation and possession, in exchange for a nullification of the trafficking and commercial supply charges. Now my friends are telling me I won’t go to jail. I hope they’re right. There’s still a fight to be had.

I’ve been obsessing over the re-lease of old material of late, and over music generally. The old Beargarden album ‘All That Fall’ is available, for better or worse, on and will spread to the other digital outlets. I was interviewed by some eighties aficionados the other day in my lounge room and they were terribly excited. Typically, the little black cat captured and tortured and consumed a skink in the background while we were talking. For those interested in Beargarden, there’s a bits and bobs album - The Word That Refers To The Word That Refers to Walt Disney - becoming available in the same place this week. It’s better than the other one, I think.

With the help of the redoubtable Simon Polinski, and his tremendous hospitality, we’ve been collecting up and mastering the Ears record (Dogs in Space). It looks like 16 tracks now and it also will also appear on Bandcamp within days.

We’re on the bill at Lucasaid. Thursday the 2nd December - one week from today

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Monday, November 1, 2010

~ wry

I’ve had a good week. My grant proposal for Ambergris (the play I’ve been battling with for a few years now) was accepted by the Victorian Arts Ministry. It’s been a long time since I’ve attempted one of these and, towards the end of the tram-ride to Brunswick for the announcements, I’d more or less convinced myself there was no way I was going to get it. As a result, when I found my name on the list (coupled with the descriptor 'Mt Waverley') I practically fainted. I couldn’t have been more excited if I’d won a Nobel Prize.

Speaking of prizes, if you’re in need of some comprehensive entertainment, watch Steve Kilbey’s acceptance speech for The Church’s induction into the Aria Hall of Fame. Quel raconteur! (I could only find it on facebook, but it must exist elsewhere)

Speaking of Mt Waverley, it’s the time of bleating baby magpies. A family of these birds has staked a place in the peppermint gum outside my study window, and their child is incorrigible. Three times I had to go out there today with a broomstick. There is also a nest of brown thornbills, smaller than sparrows, whose trills and tweets are completely charming.

I had what amounted to a panic attack in a crowded Vic Roads office today. I think I was experiencing flashbacks of jail. The guy behind the counter looked like a screw - thick-set and crewcut - and he had me utterly flustered trying to explain the identity of the person from whom I was trying to transfer ownership of my new car... It was horrible. But Polly wants to marry a mango-tree when she grows up, and I suppose that’s positive. Also, there is at least one kid at her school who is allergic to band-aids. Go figure. Additionally, on the radio, I believe I heard an advertisement for a model of car called an Autobiography. If I wasn’t dreaming, that’s got to be strong indicator of the social climate.

On Saturday night, accompanied by my exotic Japanese friend M, I went to The Old Bar to see Harry Howard and The Near Death Experience. It was raining torrentially and the atmosphere in the place was a little wanting, but they were far from. They were kind of... curious, intriguing, definitively offbeat. I couldn’t possibly think of anything with which to compare them. They were far more rhythm than melody, with a kind of weird, elusive 60’s pop influence, or something ... and though their songs were concerned with death, sickness, hate and so forth, the prevailing mood was, well, wry. But then, I guess, any band containing Harry Howard could not fail to be wry. It was also good to watch Claire Moore’s drumming. I haven’t seen her do that for an aeon.

By the way, here's the cover art for the forthcoming CD from The Ears. And yes, after a strictly commercial decision, it's called Dogs in Space.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

~ something eldritch

My lovely, though sometimes worryingly anaemic psychologist is arranging for me to have a 'neuro-assessment'. It’s a legal thing, but it might be interesting. I do like to count things. For instance, and for your edification, I eat 12 strawberries, 5 dates and 5 prunes daily, together with many other things in precise amounts. When I exercise - which I must do to avoid shrivelling - I presently do 18 laps of freestyle, 4 of breaststroke and smaller numbers of kickboard etc. Whenever I address a task, I try to control it with numbers.

But if you look at my office, or my bedroom, it’s a study in entropy. Whatever I’m concentrating on is usually nice and ordered, but everything on the periphery reliably degrades to merde. I also once put my shoes in the fridge while contemplating something else. And both of my most recent long-term ex-girlfriends tell me I have some symptoms of asperbergers.

Admittedly, all things considered, I must sit somewhere on the scale between eccentricity and outright madness. Outside of the obligatory depression and anxiety, I’ve never really considered myself mentally ill, but I suppose it makes sense to have a professionally-produced document to give the judge some sort of clue as to what he’s dealing with.

If I disappear suddenly, though, it may mean they’ve put me away. But don’t worry, I won’t be so stupid as to wear a pink shirt at any point in the near future.

Now, in answer to a query from a friend of mine:

Do sperms die if they’re not used? Or do they build up, increasing their numbers without limit? And, if so, where is this expanding reservoir of reproductive material stored? Do the testicles grow larger and larger as they are forced to harbour increasingly large amounts of flagellating microbes?

Well, the answer is elusive. People generally seem more concerned at how long sperm live outside the male body than within: including on hands, in washing machines and on toilet seats. Thankfully, sperm do have a limited lifespan within the male body. One source says 74 days. Another source says they take 65-74 days to develop. Another says that once they are ready they only last a few weeks, so lets say about 80 days from start to finish. But there are cells, stem cells I would guess, which are constantly shedding off new infant sperm - these cells, I gather, live as long as their host and if they die he becomes sterile.

So, here's a picture of something eldritch which was generated by the mind of a young boy whose mother, Susan, is a friend of mine.

Till next time.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

~ the pittance

I’ve been finding it difficult getting back into a routine with these blog posts. I think, perhaps, it’s because I’ve been so focused on work lately, trying to make every hour of every day count before I have to immerse myself in my legal defence.

With regards legal matters, there’s been some good, perhaps very good news. The DPP has thankfully dropped the most severe of the charges: the one that forced the matter of The Crown vs Sam Sejavka up into the County Court, necessitated a 3-4 day trial with a jury and made the seizure of my house a distinct possibility. I don’t quite know what’s going to happen now; it’s still serious, but not quite so doom-laden. I'll find out in mid-November what the new schedule will be. [as for details of my transgressions, I think the ‘REGARDING DONATIONS’ link gives the details]

I managed, finally, pay most of my five figure legal fees (It’s a pre-paid system) though now I’m saddled with outrageous debt and am having to teach myself to survive on a pittance. Not that I haven’t been in this situation before...

Another individual in dire financial circumstances is Steve Lucas (of X) who has some kind of agonising back problem which can’t be solved without an influx of cash. On Thursday, December 2 at the Gershwin Room there a benefit. There are eight bands including The Ears so make certain to put it in your diaries.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

~ exquisite corpse

For the first time in a very long time, I've sat down, picked up a guitar and written a song. I'm not sure what to blame it on. Perhaps a reduction in some of my medications ... More likely the gig I attended Saturday night at Ding Dong. I really enjoyed the simple, straight ahead style of SK and Ricky Maymi from the Brian Jonestown Massacre. And this after spending ninety minutes entirely inert on stage imitating a corpse in a show called The Real Inspector Hound. (I suffered some exquisite torture during that seemingly endless play, and learned some very dark secrets about myself.)

Since the Crystal Ballroom show, The Ears have been rehearsing fortnightly at our drummer Carl's place, and enjoying it mightily - though I expect we'd get more achieved if alcohol consumption levels were reduced just a tad.

We're generating new songs too. About four or five since our recohesion. I was a little leery about this at first, thinking of the Ears as some ancient artefact which audiences wouldn't want to see change. But I've altered my thinking. Against the odds we've become a living band again, and living bands produce new material. Also, in these latter days, wonderfully, it doesn't seem to matter what inestimable age you might reach - you just keep going till you drop.

So about this song I've written. Those creatures of the upper air, who pass through my dreams, leaving clues for plots and dialogue and melodies, have intimated strongly that its title should be Basking Shark ...

We'll breed a Basking Shark for you.

A last! A Basking Shark for you

I do worry that it might seem obscure, inaccessible, even meaningless. I know I have a tendency to alienate potential listeners, readers, what have you, with my love for the arcane, but trust me, I have integrated the basking shark into the lyrics in a way that makes good and proper sense, that may even, ultimately, tug on your heart strings.

Anyway here's a photo of Donald, Nurin and I at Ding Dong last Saturday night

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

~ a sacred kingfisher

Here's Cathy and I after the Ding Dong show. If I've ever had more fun on stage, I can't remember it.

First off, thanks to Amanda for getting me back to this blog. Obviously, I've fallen out of the habit of updating it, though not of writing generally - of course. Ambergris, the play I've mentioned often over time, needs just a little polishing before it's complete, and I've been working on a couple of novelettes which will soon be in need of publishing.

But first things first. I was walking Polly to rainbow guides this afternoon when I saw a flash of colour in someone's driveway. Colour and movement. Now, being somewhat of a birder, and having a pretty good knowledge of the birdlife around here, I was astounded to see an absolutely gorgeous male sacred kingfisher, flopping about on the concrete, unable to fly, presumably injured. Polly helped me capture it and we brought it home, boxed and watered it. Thankfully, it is not the kind of bird that drops dead from shock. Rather the opposite. As you'll notice from the picture, it has a reasonable amount of fight left in it.

It's presence in Mt Waverley is really quite a mystery. Polly, strangely, named it The King of Switzerland.

Next, for anyone interested in the long delayed re-release of the Beargarden album, let me raise your hopes once more. Bruce Butler and I had another meeting today. We have sworn to a schedule and both the Beargarden and Ears albums will be available well before the end of the year. Nothing will stop us this time, though they are likely to be online releases initially.

I'm just dipping my toe in the water today, so that's all for now.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

~ the eve of the ballroom reunion

When the Ears played at The Corner last year, I spent the majority of the time either on my knees or flat on my back. The gig after that I resorted to an on-stage oxygen bottle. Tomorrow evening, which I am looking forward to exceedingly, I hope to vastly increase the time I spend on my feet. I’ve gotten into some sort of routine with my swimming, so my wind is better, my voice is louder and my legs are strong. Relatively speaking.

The vibe on this thing is extraordinary. Every man and his dog seems to know about it. And it’s a truly novel experience watching the discussions unfold ahead of time on the facebook events page ... and perhaps elsewhere, for all I know. Issues left unresolved a quarter of a century ago have resurfaced. There’s been bitterness, vitriol and sweet love. Old wounds have been reopened and cruelly salted.

Sociologically, it’s just so interesting.

A loose clique of friends and associates with similar interests, beholden to a similar fashion sense [mostly involving the colour black] and drawn to certain venues where its needs were most adequately served, dissolves over the decades into the greater cloud of humanity and is gone.

Then, much much later - like a male salmon releasing his milt into the stream - a package of memetic signals is released into society.

These signals are clues - gestural, semantic, mnemonic, perhaps even pheremonal - and intuitively, instinctively, the former members of the clique take note and respond - with the massive assistance of the tool that is facebook.

At once they precipitate from the population. From the suburbs they come, from colonies in the bush, from renovated terrace houses in places that used to be cool, and gather for a few precious hours,

Briefly, the old scene - wearier, less pert, less lissom, less nubile, more sluggish, flabbier, the heroin in their blood superseded by prescription medications - is born anew and briefly blossoms, before once again - like a shooting star in the heavens - it fades away.

How’s that for an analysis? I defy you for a better one!

I know it’ll make it a long evening, but I do advise getting there reasonably early for tickets. Our manager Dolores suspects that it may be a sellout and from the extent of interest I’m inclined to agree. I’ve even learnt that the person who heard mention of the Ears on Gold 104 was not, in fact, hallucinating.

The Ears rehearsed last night, by the way, and are champing at the bit. Cathy is down from Sydney with at least two outfits from which to choose. Nothing’s gone wrong with my voice. Mick is damn serious about it. Ross is just a fantastic bass player and is fundamentally conjoined with Carl. There’s something satisfying about watching experienced old ones do it just right. Our keyboardist, Andrew ‘Terence’ Park, is being tracked by the Parkes Observatory as he passes through the Kuiper Belt.

We don’t play often these days, so it feels like we’ve got to make it count. Strangely, we’re going to attempt a new song. It’s provisionally called ‘energumen'. Here are some of the lyrics ...

I ate a golden egg! I ate a golden egg!

Oh and the name-tag idea ... functional, ironic, stupid and monumentally off key, just my kettle of fish. Surrender your vanities at the door, my dark haughty emaciated brooding beloved.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

~ why must we grow old?

I couldn't resist reposting these Ears photos which appeared on facebook the other day. That's me above, not Iggy Pop, and down below is Mick. The band is ready to peak on Sunday night, by the way.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

~ trypanophobia & the anti-vax fools

Why do we believe things despite a lack of evidence - or even in the face of overwhelming proof that we are wrong? Because it suits us to, I think, more or less.

What other reason can there be, down at the bone?

Are we too proud to admit we’re wrong? Too scared to break with our peer group? Or we’re paranoid? We’re making money? We like the idea of certain things being true because they fit with the kind of universe we’d like to live in? Or they feel right? Or they issue from the mouth of someone we admire? Or whom we respect? Or whom we find beautiful?

Generally, it all comes down to the same thing: if we break with evidence, we can, unlike scientists, believe whatever the hell we like. Unless, I suppose, we’re ignorant or mentally incapable of understanding the meaning and the implications of scientific proof.

So what lies behind the choice so many parents make to deny their children vaccination? Why have they chosen to believe that the MMR vaccine causes autism, despite there being not a skerrick of proof?

The luxury of resting ones child’s health on the back of an urban myth is allowed only by the vaccination of other children. And as such it is profoundly decadent. If these parents had lived through the heyday of smallpox or polio, their position would have been untenable - but the horror of those days has apparently been forgotten.

And if the vast majority of today’s children were not vaccinated and there was no establishment of ‘herd immunity’ then epidemics of debilitating often fatal diseases would sweep the country. There would be the same amount of autism but a whole lot more measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, tuberculosis and pertussis.

The anti-vax canard is already causing deaths. There have been outbreaks in new age havens like Byron Bay. A four month old baby has died from pertussis because of low vaccination rates. She was depending on herd immunity to protect her until she was old enough to be vaccinated, as are those who are immunologically compromised and cannot withstand a vaccine.

But, again, why choose to fly in the face of established evidence?

I’ve been wondering if it might come down to trypanophobia? (That would be the fear of needles, by the way) I wonder if Jenny McCarthy’s ‘mommy instincts’ were actually roused by the sight of cold steel not only penetrating her child’s pure flesh but pumping arcane scientific fluids into its system? To a parent’s eye it is indeed an apparent violation.

It’s not an insignificant phobia. 10% of us have it. And to quote Wikipedia “thousands of years ago humans who meticulously avoided stab wounds and other incidences of pierced flesh would have a greater chance of survival.” It takes a solid trust in medicine & science to shuck instinct and submit one’s child to such an experience, but at least it is a trust based in good solid evidence - not in quack doctors, net paranoids, and loopy new age energumens.

I think some parents simply choose not to yield their child to the medicated barb. The screaming of the babe trumps any amount of figures and statistics. But when mountebanks like Dr Wakefield give them sets of figures they can happily agree with, they seize on them, and so the thing grows.

However, there is a new delivery mechanism in the chute: a dermal 'nanopatch'
developed by Professor Mark Kendle, from Queensland University's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. The patch promises to deliver vaccines far more effectively than the needle and with only a few minutes wear.

If this idea comes to fruition, I wouldn’t be surprised if it pulls the rug out from beneath the anti-vax movement. With the needle gone, there will be no critical emotional response holding up the whole insane edifice, and the nasty business might just crumble away.

People might then realise it was all just a very complicated way for selfish, cowardly parents to avoid having a doctor pierce the skin of their screaming child - for its own good and the absolute good of us all.

(PS. Sadly, I’ve just heard an ad for Channel 10’s 7pm program: To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? I hope to goodness the dangerous nutjobs aren’t getting equal time with the scientists again.)

(PPS. I just realised that I might have called this post 'The Needle And The Damage Done'.)

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~ a third column

I started this blog because, like everyone who gets into blogging, I wanted to add a third column to my ... template.ThreeColumnBlogger

Over the next week or so, health willing, I’m going to make an effort to update the Sails of Oblivion layout, so please excuse me if the page looks strange from time to time. I really want that third column ... mainly for the twitter feed and all that stuff which gets lost at the bottom. And I think it’s time for an improved header. And a fresh new look all round.

I saw a little wattlebird yesterday. Similar to the common red wattlebird but devoid of wattle and yellow-stained chest, and blessed with a distinctive, possibly even more demented range of vocalisations. Today there were some masked lapwings on one of the Monash Uni ovals. In the Valley Reserve I witnessed the wonderful display of a flirty grey fantail and, briefly, I think, an eastern spinebill.

As long as I can remember, there have been tiny brown and grey chirruping birds living outside the window of my study. Like all species, they have their own specific character - a thing which birders (unfortunately) call their ‘jizz’ - but until recently their identity has remained mysterious. Despite their abundance, it was a hard job pinning them down - even with the help of my new field guide. They do not look spectacular; they are not an imposing bird in any way, yet they colour the ambience here with their twitters and trills, and the flickering they do among the leaves. I am sure I would notice their absence.

I learned that they are brown thornbills - and with this knowledge a world opened up, just there, outside my window, of which I had no real prior awareness. Now I know their preferences, the months they breed, the kind of nests they make and the extent of their range. It’s all so ... fascinating. A name is a key - and never more so now we have the internet.

I am beginning to see the hot churning black hole at the centre of the birder’s mind; I am beginning to feel its irresistible attraction ...

This is the long-billed corella. The last few mornings I have heard the harsh, grating voices of a flock passing high above the house. The bird often looks scruffy because it has a habit of digging for tubers, including, helpfully, the bulb of the hideous onion weed. The individual above, (photographed by Noodle Snacks) is, however, perfectly presented, though
the bloody bib suggests (falsely) that it may recently have been gnawing at something’s throat.

Yesterday, Polly imprisoned a daddy long legs in a small lidded container together with a snail in the hope that by morning they would have ‘mated’. Also, she’s acquired a device called an R5 which holds eighty games and can be plugged into the back of her DS - this will settle her for the next week or two

Speaking of mating, did you hear about the transgenic pig-sheep? I was excited for a while - and hopeful, thinking it might have some advantages for the environment. We farm pigs anyway; if they could grow wool as well as bacon, then there's got to be some kind of energy saving. Perhaps some of our sheep pastures could be turned to forests roamed by woolly free-range pigs? Disappointingly, the abomination turned out to be the Mangalitza, a rare porcine breed from Austria with no apparent sheep genetics. Still, the idea is there. There's no reason to give up hope entirely.

And if only there were a substance that was neither illegal nor poisonous which you could have just a little of as night begins to fall. Something to make you laugh and forget how tired and sick you feel, something to elevate the spirit and anaesthetise some of the wounds acquired during the day - and which did not give you a hangover. Is Big Pharma working on something like this? Would they be allowed to? And if they succeeded, would it be legal?

This is a an old car that burned in the black Saturday bushfires. It was part of a collection of valuable Australian antiques and was donated to the Melbourne Museum in the condition you see. The chassis of most modern cars warped, even melted in the terrible heat, but older cars, with heavier steel bodies, seem to have been able to hold their shape. Mind you, the insides were a charred and melted melange.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

~ the ballroom reunion #1

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

~ how to get distracted

I was spending every available second on my play, desperately working to ply some shape into tens of thousands of words of dialogue, when, without too much warning, I am in some toilet, daubed in body paint, presenting as a Na’vi tribesperson. Again, the vicissitudes ...

With others of my species, I spent time outside Rio Tinto’s Lair of Evil in Collins Street, generally protesting the cruel, ethic-poor behaviour displayed by the company in their ravening quest to wring unobtainium from the flesh of the Earth - and, in particular, their outrageous, but unsurprising, action in locking five hundred workers out of a vast, open-cut borax mine in California and bussing in masked scabs.

To paraphrase Jenny: they make the most successful film in history. It’s seen by a vast number of people. It comes down very hard on the side of the environment, scolds corporate greed, compares the barking violence of the machines to the encompassing beauty of nature ... and what changes? They walk out of the cinema and nothing changes ...

Well, at least by planting ourselves, thus attired, outside the offices of one of our more conspicuous Resource Development Administrations we might go a little way towards helping people recognise a link between reality and what they see on screen.

And .... something I photographed in the tea-room of the Melbourne Museum Moreland annexe.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

* 19 july 1981 Monday 8.00pm

Through a tremendous act of discipline, I have at last propelled myself back home. I had money. I could have gone out, indeed I was expected to. P---- was stoned and I could have been too. But sheer force of will prevailed.

I have a toothache and will be going to the dentist tomorrow.

I’m waiting on my Ovaltine money before I get a new flat, in case you’re wondering.

I’m stripped of ideas, but I’ll write anyway. I’ve moved a desk into my bedroom. I’m going for a facial on Thursday.

I never want to go out again. It is pleasure without pain. Leisure without work. It inspires a feeling of guilt in me ... and therefore winds up being not very pleasurable at all.

I’m going to have to move soon or not at all. This diary must seem like a book of procrastinations.

(Mt Waverley)


Hmmn. I remember how hard it was in those days, forcing myself to work. Sitting down at a desk was at least half the battle. It was so easy just to coast in the hedonistic dream of a wastrel, and it took a long long time before I learnt the tricks to generating my own volition. Nourishing the seeds of guilt were a part of it. I hate to feel useless even now. I hate to reward myself unless I feel I’ve done something to deserve it.

That facial sticks in my memory. Troy had arranged it for me with a Polish beautician in Glenhuntly Rd, Elsternwick. He may even have accompanied me, as I recall his introducing me to the vol-au-vent at a cafe nearby. It's the only facial I remember having in the entirety of my existence. I recall the blackhead removal apparatus and the phrase 'congested skin'; I recall that the beautician was from Krakow.

For months afterwards, I applied product to my face from a variety of tiny Ella Bache sample tubes which she had given me.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

~ the troll

Yesterday, as she posed for an art class, Jenny heard one of the participants relate the following story about a female friend. It is true.

The friend lived in a nearby suburb with her retarded eighteen year old boy, who, though very simple, was functional enough to be left to his own devices most of the time. He was fully grown, tall and strong.

When his mother arrived home one evening she found him in great distress. He looked like he had been in a fight with a bear. He was bleeding, covered in scratches. His clothes were torn, covered with leaves and dirt, and he was scared out of his wits.

Obviously, the mother was very concerned. She was desperate to know what had happened, but her son's stammered answers made no sense. He said that he had fought with a troll.

As she was cleaning him up, he revealed that he had managed to capture the troll, that it was locked in the garage, and that she could see it if she wanted.

The mother, despite the absurdity of the situation, was overcome by trepidation as they approached the garage door. The boy was genuinely frightened and taking shelter behind her. She did not think he was lying. And there was his dishevelled state to consider ...

And there were the sounds of banging from within.

The twilight surrounds of the very ordinary suburban backyard - with its lawn, its barbeque and its trellises - took on an unfamiliar, even nightmarish quality. But the mother shook these feelings from her head, mustered her courage and opened the door.

Inside, there was a tiny little man, a dwarf, in a similar state of discomposure to her son. And he was entirely pissed off.

He had been riding by on the footpath, happily, when her son - perceiving a grotesque creature from the pages of the Brothers Grimm - had tackled him, restrained him and locked him up, evidently thinking he was doing a service to the community in capturing a wild, dangerous ... troll.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

~ ears at ding dong club

The official I Got Drunk At The Crystal Ballroom reunion evening is now happening on Sunday May 9 at the Ding Dong Lounge in the early evening with The Pang (Rob Wellington, Adam Learner), Little Murders (eighties Mod phenomenon) & The Ears. This is as locked in as locked in can be. It’s $5 at the door and there will be pre-bookings probably costing a couple of dollars extra.

I’ll post any changes on Twitter (link in the right column somewhere) and the IGDATCB facebook site will be up to date on everything I’m sure.

All very exciting. The photos are from the last time by Carbie Warbie

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

~ saint jacket

At the recent Atheist Convention, Dan Barker - an apostate who was once an evangelist preacher but now runs the Freedom From Religion Foundation in the US - described what it was like being a vessel for god. No challenge could ever penetrate his faith, because - to paraphrase from memory - god was right there with him, a certain presence above and slightly to the rear of his head. How could he possibly doubt when, on stage, the numinous power surged through him, unerring and incandescent, whipping like a high-voltage cable, gathering energy from the swelling emotions of his congregation?

For some people - and it has been suggested the root cause may be genetic, - such levels of spiritual experience are possible. Barker’s experiences were unusual though, even in the very godly context in which he worked. Most of a religious bent merely trudge on, nourished by a workaday relationship with their god, in awe of the Dan Barkers of this world, of the St Bernadettes, the Ezekiels and St Johns with their visionary frenzies and holy ecstasies.

I’ve always suspected, intellectually, that football provides for me what I cannot get from religion - but last night at the Docklands Stadium, like Dan Barker, I felt something above and slightly to the rear of my head - and it wasn’t a drunken Collingwood supporter.

Admittedly, I was primed. A grey pall of depression moved with me as I passed across the city to the ground. Despite all my efforts, the precious things in my life are under renewed threat and, as I walked, I could see no way of saving them that hadn’t failed many times before. I felt as if I’d spent a century in a dark cul-de-sac, squinting at the mortar between the bricks, thinking it was an horizon.

I drank a glass of wine. Another. I took my seat (provided by the generosity of my dear friend Andrew Park) and spent two hours riding the violent emotional ebbs and flows of a truly strange game of footy. I merged with the body of saints fans like a droplet merges with an ocean. I screamed my tonsils out until the final bar of the final iteration of the club song after a truly famous victory. For a while I was immaculate and cleansed. My soul was pruned to a single essential fact: I was a devotee of the St Kilda football club, beyond that - nothing. The brilliant, courageous, harrowing performance of my team against Collingwood - particularly Collingwood - was all the meaning I needed.

It’s good, I suppose, that such feelings are evanescent. After all, there is a lot more to me than that. Let’s just hope that ... Nick Riewoldt’s hamstring doesn’t keep him out of the game for too long.

Above is a picture of Michelle's glorious jacket

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

~ ambergris in the raw

With the kind patience and assistance of the staff at the Moreland annexe of the Melbourne Museum (particularly my dear friend Nurin) I was at last able to have my first certified look feel and smell of ambergris, the waste product of the sperm whale which holds a rarefied place in the perfume industry - and which is central to my current work.

I was expecting something like the warehouse at the end of Raiders of The Lost Ark, and I wasn’t so far off the mark. It’s a large unmarked rectilinear building on an unprepossessing corner in an unexceptional suburb, yet within there are wonders.

So let me tell you about their marvellous sample of ambergris. For a start, unsurprisingly, those tasked with locating it were unimpressed by the appearance and the odour - without question, it had the ‘humid’, ‘earthy’, ‘marine’, ‘animalic’ fragrance I’ve so often read described. It was a huge crumbling bolus, covered with patches of concreted sand and what may have been the roots of long dead seaweed. It was indexed as an amalgam of ambergris and non-descript matter, possibly faeces - but upon inspection the tell-tale squid-beaks were evident throughout - and the hot-needle test I was allowed to perform on a tiny smidgeon came up a strong positive.

I love this kind of thing. It drives me on through life. Polly, who I took along, was a touch bemused by the whole process ... but at least she knows what ambergris is now, and she was more than a little interested in some of the other exhibits we passed along the way.

This pig, we learned, had come from the Austin hospital. It had been genetically modified as part of an effort to make porcine organs compatible with humans needing transplants. (xenotransplantation). From the fact it was preserved in such a way, I can only assume it held - or perhaps still holds - great significance.

(please excuse the unfamiliar formatting - something strange seems to have happened with the Blogger interface)

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

~ perforated judean zombie

I won’t harp on it, but it was wonderful to be back at the football last night. A whole new season ahead, bright with potential ...

I bought both papers this morning, as I sometimes do when St Kilda has a particularly comprehensive victory - just so I can read twice as much about the game. So I can wallow like a pig in statistics, and linger on descriptions of our consummate skills.

But enough of that. It’s Easter Sunday, the Christian remodelling of the Jewish Passover, and before that a spring fertility feast dedicated to the Anglo-Saxon goddess Ēostre, from which, sayeth the venerable Bede, the word Easter derives. Others paid homage to the Babylonian Ishtar and the Chaldean Astarte (referred to in the Old Testament as ‘Ashtoreth the abomination’). The eggs are an obvious fertility symbol, as are the bunnies. What’s more, Wikipedia tells me that buns marked with a cross symbolising the four quarters of the moon were thought to have been eaten by Saxons in honour of Ēostre.

Currently, Easter celebrates the dubious claim that a man - who may in fact have been fictional - was reanimated after spending three days as a carcass, escaping his tomb to roam Jerusalem like some perforated Judean zombie. Of course this would be sensational news if it were true, but it’s not, and the reasoning behind this unlikely circumstance strains credulity even further. Resurrection - which is normally impossible - was viable in this case because the dead man was the creator of the universe. Bewilderingly, he was also the child of the creator of the universe, if I properly understand the tortuous theology....

Anyway, as a result of this non-event two thousand years ago, it took me ages getting my newspapers Almost everything that is ordinarily open of a Sunday morning was shut. As always, Easter not only inconveniences me, but makes me feel like an outcast.

There was a time when this land was spiritually homogeneous. Credulous adherents to the above mythology dominated so thoroughly that laws were actually passed preventing most things from operating on the anniversaries of Christ’s execution and putative resurrection. But those days are gone. More and more humans are questioning the rationality of such beliefs, and these humans should not be inconvenienced by the communal madness of the indoctrinated. It’s a form of discrimination, not only against atheists but against supporters of other religious brands.

On Good Friday afternoon, Andrew Park and I went seeking alcohol in Richmond. We passed about seven pubs and bottle shops on Victoria Street before we struck pay dirt. Ridiculous! Outrageous! And what was I doing in Richmond with Andrew Park, keyboard player for the miraculously resurrected Ears?

Well, we’re rehearsing again. Our haruspex has performed an augury and there may be a gig on the horizon. It could be related to a facebook group called I Got Drunk At The Crystal Ballroom - but the details are sketchy. If his prophesies hold water, I’ll shout it to the world. Ross Farnell, late of Beargarden, is on bass now and the band is sounding volcanic.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

~ red rumped parrot

In these lean times, its rare for me to come into possession of precious things, but yesterday, using a book voucher I received for Christmas, I acquired a copy of Pizzey & Knights’ highly respected Field Guide to The Birds of Australia. Since then it has barely left my hands.

I know. My prognosis is doubtful. I may have traveled so far down the birding path that my chances of returning are poor.

But let me share with you some of my ornithological excitement. According to the twitchers, Melbourne is home to many parrots - not just your rainbow lorikeets,
galahs and eastern rosellas - but more obscure varieties like the musk lorikeet, the purple crowned lorikeet and the little lorikeet. My failure to sight any of these has been a source of enduring frustration, but today, at last, things changed ...

During a break from reading at Vision Australia, one of the workers noticed me poring over my new bird book and informed me that a family of red-rumped parrots was living in the park right next door. Once I’d finished with my work, I walked down to have a look and was far from disappointed.

Please excuse the quality of the photos. My camera is not only cheap but somewhat wonky and I had to take these shots at full zoom. Typically for the bird kingdom, the dull version of the bird is the female. Red-rumped parrots (Psephotus haematonotus) are also known as grass parrots.

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~ the goa stone, byssus and the pyxis

If there’s one thing that's guaranteed to stall the progress of my work, it’s research. If I cast aside my figurative pen and submerge myself in the vast reference tool that is the internet, then the hours slip by without friction and I emerge with a head full of fascinating arcana, little of which is relevant to the job at hand. To wit: the play I'm working on called Ambergris.

In the last week, I've learned more about ambergris the substance than I could ever hope to employ, but I've
also been lured down snaking tributaries ... overhung with rare crystalline fruit ... ripe to the point of bursting ... which I could not help but pluck ...

I learnt of shilajeet, an uncommon tar that seeps from hidden cracks among the Himalayan mountains during the summer thaw. Even the apes of this region know of its restorative properties for - together with humans - they sup from these mysterious wells and are known to age at half the rate of their fellows.

I discovered the noble pen shell, a massive Mediterranean mussel which secretes extremely fine golden threads with which it affixes itself to rocks. In antiquity, these threads were collected and woven into an exceptionally sheer fabric named byssus or sea-silk, which - owing to its
utter luxuriance and its tremendous price - was favoured by Pharaohs, Satraps, Caesars, Padishahs and any potentate worth his salt in the ancient world. Only one human still practices the art of weaving byssus. The noble pen shell is on the brink of extinction.

I made a note of lacryma cervorum - the stag’s tear - a viscous substance found in the corner-pit of the animal’s eye and possessed of magical properties similar to those of the bezoar.

But let me reveal some secrets of the ambergris ... that ‘marine sulphur, found at the sea-shore’ ..., which has broken from the ‘fountains and caverns of the sea’ ... Which ‘is grey, sweet and smooth' ... and which, when ‘pricked with a needle sweats out fatness, softens in the heat, and when moist appears black’.

If it is true, as tradition dictates, that ambergris is most likely to be found in the hindgut of the sickest whales, then it is no shock that the following individual, taken by whalers, contained the precious substance ...

There was ‘an unusual combination of lesions and ... behavioural abnormalities’ in a bull whale ‘taken... off Iceland’. There was ‘heavy combative scarring of the head, grossly roughened and thickened skin on the lower left flank, cutaneous maculae, genital papillomatosis, partial duodenal obstruction by plastic debris, colo-rectal obstruction by ambergris, cystic degeneration of the right kidney, and a deeply ulcerative gastric nematodiasis. Sealskin was found in the stomach. Gross and histopathologic observations suggested that the disease complex in this animal may have been related both to habitat degradation and health risks naturally associated with its ecology and age.’

gnorance of its origins have in the past spawned some curious tales ...

Ambergris is not the scum or excrement of a whale, but issues out of the root of a tree ... which shoots forth its roots towards the sea, seeking the warmth of it, thereby to deliver the fattest gum that comes out of it, ... otherwise by its copious fatness [the tree] might be burnt and destroyed ... [the] fat gum it is so tough that it is not easily broken from the root, unless [by] its own weight and the working of the warm sea. . . . If you plant the trees where the stream sets to the shore, then the stream will cast it up to great advantage.'

In [a] ridiculous and wholly fictional account of a ... sea journey in search of the lost Capt. Jacob Cole, Clifford describes using a diving suit to find ambergris on the bottom of the sea and digging it out of the sediments with a pick axe.’

At one time it was ‘assumed that the sperm whale was a hunter rather than a manufacturer of ambergris, and that he swam ... about the broad ocean, gobbling up the treasure wherever he could locate it.” “In vain it was to rake for ambergriese in the paunch of this leviathan’ ... as ‘they sometimes swallow great lumps thereof in the sea’ before vomiting it out.

Marco Polo was the first Western chronicler to [correctly connect ambergris with sperm whales, but he ] also thought [the whales] vomited it up after having eaten it in the depths of the sea.’ Current wisdom has it - as far as I can tell from my readings - that the ‘morbid concretion’ exits not from the mouth but the anus [or its cetacean equivalent].

Ambergris was an article of imperial trade in Audoghast in northwest Africa before 1,000AD. In the 10th century Ibn Haukal, an Arab trader, classed it in value with gold and black slaves and referred to its reputed aphrodisiac properties.

Avicenna ascribed its formation to the belchings of undersea volcanos. Kublio thought it was bird guano. Nero's wife Poppaea Sabina is reputed to have had oil of ambergris poured in her bath in 54AD.”

The Crusaders, "who will not be suspected of effeminacy," were largely responsible for its introduction to Europe from their contact with the Arabs.” Louis XV is said to have used ambergris to flavour his favourite dishes. The favourite dish of France's King Charles II was eggs and ambergris.

Ambergris is used in the manufacture of cassolettes, little perforated ivory boxes made to contain powdered odoriferous substances to carry in the pocket or reticule. It was also used in the production of peau d'Espagne, or Spanish Skin, used for perfuming writing paper and envelopes. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have worn a cape made of peau d'Espagne.’

The ‘pasty pathological growth’ also had pharmacological uses ...

It was ‘sealed up in a vessel hermetically, and digested for forty days. The ripened blend, we are informed, perfumes forever what it touches, eases the headache, takes away defluxions from the eyes, comforts cold and aged people, prevents apoplexy and epilepsy, strengthens all parts of the body, and causes fruitfulness’.

And as I've quoted in an older post ...

It is ... an excellent Corroborative; it is discutient, resolutive, alexipharmic, and analeptic; it strengthens the heart and brain, revives and recreates the spirits natural, vital, and animal. Its sweet Sulphur is ... a good preservative against the Plague". From The Art of Healing and Praxis of Chymistry.

Then there is the curious Goa Stone ... It was ‘a universal remedy introduced in seventeenth century England, originating ‘from Goa and ... found in the form of oval balls weighing up to one pound ... [they were] generally encased in decorated gold or silver spheres. The formulation consisted of a number of powdered ingredients which included precious stones, bezoar, musk, ambergris and gold leaf, levigated into a fine, impalpable powder and formed into oval balls with mucilage’.

And the Pyxis, ‘an ivory box fashioned from the natural cylindrical shape of a tusk, probably used to hold gifts of ambergris, musk and camphor’. One example ‘is carved with a host of elaborate scenes, including one showing two horsemen, accompanied by cheetahs and birds, picking dates off a tree’.

In 1912 the discovery of a 450 kg. lump of ambergris saved a Norwegian whaling company from liquidation.

During the writing of my last play Mysterium I deliberately indulged myself. The work ‘sweats’ with strange archaic language and is bursting with fascinating anecdotes and obscure details. It was an unusual play with an unusual style, and its richness and density was generally well received - but with Ambergris I am planning for the narrative, the characterisation, and all those other elements which traditionally make a play a play, to be paramount.

The play is progressing wonderfully, but it is stretching into infinity. I am at page one hundred and ten with miles to go before I sleep.
Fortunately, I now have Sails of Oblivion - the perfect repository for all the fascinating little gewgaws I encounter along the way.

[Please excuse me for not attributing the quotes and sources in this post. It was simply a matter of time.]

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

~ dominion

After many failed attempts, Robert has at last identified and plugged the hole through which our possums were gaining ingress to the roof. Around dawn, the noises of frustration began and continued for hours. Perhaps the creatures have at last accepted that the well-appointed possum-box - carpentered for them lovingly by Robert - is a more sensible choice of lair. Perhaps not. Yet for a while at least, there will be no scratching and squalling in the walls around sunset, and Polly - whom the noises freak out - will sleep easier.

I can remember the things that used to terrify me at night. I remember tensing for the touch of the skeleton approaching me in the dark. Or the vampire. The nagging fear that something deadly, perhaps a tiger, was lurking beneath the bed. The indistinct forms of dinosaurs in the foliage outside the window ... I guess that’s what Polly’s going through at the moment, but the intensity of her fears is beginning to worry me. The sight of a spider on the couch is enough to elicit screams of primal terror. Thunder and lightning drive her into wild panic ... if she picks up a storm warning on a television forecast, she will be nervous and wary throughout the following day.


Sometimes I find myself ignoring the dreadful things that are happening to our world. Sometimes I need to take a break from the unremitting gloom. Likely it’s a self-defensive action, as to focus without pause on such things is a recipe for depression.

But lately, wherever I look I’ve been faced with outrageous scenarios in which humans are carelessly and criminally exploiting the Earth and its less fortunate inhabitants. After reading into Coke-a-Cola’s behaviour in Plachimada, India, I have - in an admittedly futile gesture - eschewed my morning Diet Coke for Pepsi. The actions of Coke, who set up a plant in an impoverished region of India and proceeded to suck free water out of the ground until the locals’ wells went dry, is not only inexcusable but depressingly predictable. Thank goodness the victims seem to have achieved some success on the legal front.

Then there is the noxious, criminally evil notion of Human Achievement Hour. I was scarcely able to believe my eyes when reading about this alternative to Earth Hour in The Age during the week. Inspired by climate-change denying Australian senator Cory Bernardi and championed by extreme right wing think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, this wildly irresponsible concept formed icicles in my heart. There are people who truly believe that climate change is a left wing conspiracy. There are people who pay venal scientists to uncover hiccups in the data and inflame them into ClimateGates. There are people who believe it is a political issue not a scientific one. There are people who truly do not care about future generations. There are people who truly believe that man sits above nature and that he has, by right, Dominion over the earth.

Then I watched Mike Moore’s Capitalism - A Love Story and, although all his characteristic biases were in evidence, if even half of what he presented was accurate then we live in a miserable world indeed. The leaked Citibank plutonomy documents were near beyond belief. There is a 1% elite, at least in the US, who, in controlling 95% of the wealth, believe Dominion is theirs and bemoan their command of only 1% of the vote. Not a word about climate change. Collapsing fisheries. Animal extinctions.

God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth".

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

~ intense psychological presences

The Huntingdale Wetlands, a small regenerated wetlands site which I pass on my near-daily walks, was host to a white-faced heron today. Last week there was a pelican and a pair of masked lapwings. There’s an old pied cormorant that perches on a dead branch extruding from the not too healthy water. There’s a family of superb fairy wrens near the dank tunnel beneath the freeway and a group of raucous yellow tailed cockatoos on the other side.

Apparently, the yellow flashes on the cheeks and tails of these cockatoos are explained by their having travelled, like Icarus, very close to the sun. I learnt this from the book of poetry I’ve been narrating of late, which happens to include an unusual amount of bird poems. Birds are the perfect subject for poems. Robert Adamson, the editor of this poetry book, The Best Australian Poems 2009, explains it in this way:

“I have a theory: we miss having poets among us who can imagine that a soul can ‘clap its hands and sing, and louder sing’, that we need to acknowledge visitations by intense psychological presences, and that birds are the closest things we have, more or less, to angels.”

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Monday, March 15, 2010

~ priest of reason

I left this weekend’s Atheist convention, like many others I imagine, with a feeling that we might well be on the cusp of change. Only time will tell, however, whether the great communal spirit generated over the three days will translate into any sort of social action.

I made many many notes and I’ll probably be talking about this experience for weeks to come, but for now, I just want to cry out about how wonderful it was.

I went by myself and, in a Melbourne crowd of thousands, I encountered only two friends, yet I felt far from isolated. It was a strange and wonderful feeling finding oneself in a such huge mass of like-minded, like-spirited people. There was a palpable energy in the air. An electrically vibrating morphogenetic field [if you like] binding us all together. A little like a religious gathering, I suspect. Just the kind of social construct that the churches are experienced at providing - and of which the non-believers need more.

Again and again, speakers noted that this was the largest gathering of Atheists they had ever seen or heard of in the world. And the last of these speakers, Richard Dawkins, was predictably brilliant. Beyond his actual words, I was astonished by the air of thoughtfulness, wisdom, humility and kindness he generated. Perhaps it was partly the great respect in which he was held by the audience, but he simply shone with charisma - like a true priest of reason.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

~ a sad affair

Monday night’s Qanda on the ABC was a saddening affair. Richard Dawkins - in the country for the Atheist Convention beginning tomorrow in Melbourne - was empaneled with, among others, Steve Fielding, Julie Bishop and Tony Burke [ALP]. It could have been interesting; Dawkins seemed keen to get Fielding to state his views for the record, but the atavistic fool played the evasive politician and very clumsily to boot.

Nevertheless, I was left with the distinct impression he was a young Earth creationist, which is no surprise; but the fact that he wouldn’t admit it is appalling, given that this and other extreme Christian viewpoints lie behind his political decisions - which, regrettably, affect all Australians. His statement that religion and science should be kept separate in schools was very difficult to believe, so grudgingly was it given.

Fielding is a climate-change denier; a man who cannot untangle the real world from the mumbo jumbo of the Bible, but who has just enough political nous to know that to declare his real views would be to paint himself as a lunatic to much of the electorate. I suspect Tony Abbott is in a comparable situation.

Not one of the politicians was prepared to honestly engage with the thorny religious issues Dawkins raised. His stance was compared to a cruel attempt to strip children of their belief in Santa Claus - to which he responded by noting that children usually grow out of that belief. Tony Burke - when attempting to counter Dawkins’ mention of the myriad religious wars fought down the centuries - revealed the weakness of his critical thinking by citing the crimes of Hitler and Stalin - who merely happened to be Atheists - as examples of atrocities committed in the name of Atheism.

Both Burke and Bishop criticised Dawkins for showing insufficient respect for people’s beliefs. Well, his outspokenness used to grate on me a little too - but after reading The God Delusion I’ve come to accept his attitude. If, as Christopher Hitchens says ‘religion ruins everything’ then why should it be granted the automatic respect of civilised people. This is what is so unfortunate about the recent activity of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which, under pressure from Islamists and with the approval of Barack Obama, has passed a resolution protecting religions from criticism or blasphemy.

Possibly, the saddest point of the show - and I mean this in the sense of pathetic - was the fact that all six of the panelists (save Dawkins) attested to a belief in the afterlife.

I myself mull over the idea from time to time. I suppose it’s not inconceivable that far in the future our descendants, having evolved into a cosmic intelligence, might reach back through time, record our mind patterns at the moment of death and then run simulations in a virtual eternity ... if that is not indeed what’s happening now ... But, as Dawkins said, and as I’ve thought many times also, ‘imagine how boring it would be after the first thousand years’.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

~ crystallised magpie

I ought not leave gloomy posts to sitting on my front page for long periods; I’ve had concerned friends ringing to find out if everything’s alright - which it is, now, by the way. Relatively speaking. And it’s heartening to be reminded how caring people can be. Thank you.

I’m buried deep in the meat of Ambergris, working each day, religiously, with the intention of completing this draft by the end of the month, if not by my birthday on April 2. I’ve reached that place where the world of the play - and it’s a complex one - is hovering always in my thoughts, like a shadow of the real world. That’s the main reason you haven’t heard from me: I’m living on a devastated island off the Queenland coast with a community of strange fictional characters. It’s only in this state that I can hold the whole play in my mind - and, in this state, I find that new ideas flow from the real world ... from the personal habits of friends, from weather events, from the contents of rubbish bins, from the attitude of cats ...

Yesterday I borrowed the idea of a crystallised magpie from a poem I was reading for an audiobook. For a couple of days each week, I’m working at Vision Australia, reciting the contents of The Best Australian Poems 2009 [edited by Robert Adamson]. It’s a really agreeable pastime. Though narrating Peter Temple’s crime novel was enjoyable and instructive, there’s something about reading poems I really like. The intrinsic theatre, perhaps. The density. And, of course, the focus on words.

Life at home is comfortable at present, and tranquil, but I’m holding my breath. I find it difficult to believe. Could all the troubles of years past have been solved? I’d be a fool to lower my defences on the basis of a week or so of domestic harmony - but I can always hope.

On the legal front, things trundle on. My matter has been elevated to the county court and will be heard on 24 Jan 2011. Problem is, the judge has asked that my financing be in place by August, so - even though the length, and therefore the cost, of the trial has been reduced (from five days to four) - I’m still under extreme financial pressure. On March 23 it will be a year since the police discovered the plants in my back yard - and what a year it’s been ...

Next weekend: the Global Atheist Convention. It’s been a while since I’ve looked forward to something so much. Richard Dawkins in the flesh ...

Also, it looks like we’re getting the Ears back in gear for a gig in April, I believe - more information forthcoming.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

~ metamorphosis

They lived together in a house which made sense - even though one of them thought it made sense to acquire as many interesting, potentially useful objects as possible and keep them in the house, while the other liked clean open spaces containing as few objects as possible. Enough of the things in their lives, and in their house, made sense for them to agree, most of the time, on pretty much everything. They exchanged things, physical things and things that were not physical, and this was sufficient to make them feel comfortable, loved and happy. In the house with them - and with all the things - lived a daughter who was also comfortable, loved and happy.

But slowly, so slowly at first that it went unnoticed, one of the people in the house began to change. Deep inside her, in the muscles of her heart, a seed of sadness took hold, and it began to talk to her. It began to tell her that the other people in the house, and those beyond in the outside world, had no use for her, no respect for her and didn't really love her. To quieten the voice, she drank soothing nepenthe, but it weakened her judgement and skewed her understanding of many things. She swallowed cool lozenges of euphrosyne and played for hours with her daughter, which the daughter enjoyed tremendously, though she knew something was out of kilter and that for every hour of playtime there would be an hour of unavailability, spent in another room, with the blinds drawn, in deep consultation with the voice of the black seed. At last, in a desperate effort to regain her clear vision of the world and to shut out the voice - which now was louder than all the other voices in her life - she began to take the Milk of Mithras. But things only got worse. The elixir was the sperm of the black seed; it was the vapour of forgetfulness, sweet and lethal, it gnawed at her vital principle and soon what was left of the person she had been shriveled to the size of a pea and - somewhere deep inside where even a master surgeon could not have found it - slipped into a profound coma.

Her friend and their daughter no longer knew if she was the same person. She looked the same, if a bit worn, but on some days the sweetness inside was replaced by bitterness and anger - and on other days by by fear and misery. Soon they began to hide in the other rooms of the house, for even the brief glimpses of the person they had once known, which appeared with increasing rarity, were painful - because they were reminders of what they had lost.

For years, they woke of a morning hoping that everything had returned to normal, only to be disappointed. Sometimes they wondered if it had been some fault of theirs. If there had been something they could have done. But these were questions to which they would never know the answers.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

* Sunday 12 July 1981 7.30pm

Little as happened. There’s something wrong with my voice. I’m getting fatter and drunker. The Ovaltine advertisement has been completed.

It involved many hours of idleness.

I’m getting sick of P---. Gus is particularly dissipated. I’m getting sick of this diary and of spending all my money on heroin.


It’s been a while since I’ve pulled out the old green diary. Pity the next entry in line wasn’t more interesting.

But since, at some time in the future, my character will be judged by a jury of my peers, I wonder how wise it is to mention drugs? I can only hope that, if they happen to read this, they will see it in context.

During that Ovaltine shoot, the director had a lot of difficulty getting me to smile. Perhaps it was because I was wearing a frilly white shirt and jodhpurs. More likely, I just didn’t consider myself the kind of person who would voluntarily smile in front of the camera.

There was a gorgeous, olive-skinned female model working with me that day. I almost fainted, in my innocence, when she began swanning around the dressing room utterly naked.

The art director didn’t like my silver Latvian ring - the one my recently deceased father had given me. I took it off, gave it to someone on set for safe-keeping, then forgot to ask for it back at wrap time. Despite my frantic phone calls to the producer over the next week, the identify of the ring-bearer was never ascertained.

I was so angry with myself - and with the anonymous thief. My solution was to pretend it didn’t happen. I acquired another ring not too long after, made by a little Latvian handicrafts outfit run by smiling old ladies on the second floor of an old building in the city. (Rings are very important in Latvian culture.) My girlfriend of the time, Michele Hallgren, gave it to me as a gift, and to anyone who asked I would explain it had been given me by my father a long time ago.

Later, two and a half decades later, a guard at the Melbourne Remand Centre ground it off in a shower of sparks with an electric cutting tool.

I have yet to replace it.

Diaries - 1981

(Don’t forget to come to Poetica at the Carlton Courthouse on Monday night)

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~ the skinkatary

Let me speculate upon this image.

Both our cats, like cats the world over, are intensely interested in small running things. Tweety Bird catches and eats them. Little Kitty, who doesn’t know that they are food, just plays with them.

Garden skinks (ampropholis guichenoti) are a favourite and their local population is under constant pressure. We find so many tailless, dried up bodies that Polly and I decided to found a skinkatary. Thus far, there has been only the one burial, but doubtless there will be many more.

I have deduced that the ill-fated skink in the image at page top, while fleeing one of our cats, somehow found its way into the hollow beneath what I believe is an aquarium ornament in the shape of ... a rook perhaps? A donjon? A letterbox?

Somehow the lizard’s route of egress was closed, leaving only a tiny window at the top. (There are, by the way, similar small windows in old castles called ‘dream-holes’ which were built so that dreams could reach the bed chamber from the universe outside.) (It may also be possible that skinks are unable to travel in reverse.)

(In the movie Black Dream Hole Sailor Moon strives to prevent the evil queen, Badiyanu, and her loyal fairies using the "Black Dream Hole" to swallow the earth.)

Anyway, it seems the skink had the choice of dying within the musty confines of the ornament or making a bid for freedom. It appears to have chosen the latter.

And almost succeeded. Almost. But died, writhing twisting thrashing, its efforts waning as the last of its energy was spent. A ghastly death. A cave death. Pinned, stuck fast, doomed. The only consolation being that its small reptile brain may not have had the wherewithal to appreciate the claustrophobic horror of its circumstances.

Without doubt, it had dropped its tail. Skinks around here do that at the very first hint of an approaching cat. But the rear section of its body - what we would think of as the hips - was simply too wide to pull through, particularly given that there was not much to use for leverage.

There is a particular horror for me in this creature’s nasty end. It disinters a childhood experience which, though trivial, is cemented in my memory along with a very uncomfortable feeling.

We had returned from a three or four week summer holiday and opened up the house - this house, the one I live in - which had been very diligently sealed. I saw my mother looking at something on the kitchen windowsill.

“A bird got in,” she said, pointing to a cream bottle on the sill. Cream bottles in those days were of glass, roughly the shape of an old-style milk bottle and approximately half the size. They were sealed with a foil cap, which, I recall, was usually silver but sometimes golden, and were delivered by the milkman with his dray.

In the bottle was a black-bird. Head down. Beak agape. Eyes dead. Jammed like a feathered sardine behind the clear glass and smeared with dried yellow cream. I gaped at the bottle with dismay and utter incomprehension. It was my father who explained ...

Somehow, the bird had become trapped in the house. Over time, perhaps weeks, it had despaired for water. The only thing resembling water had been a tiny residue of cream at the bottom of the bottle and, in mortal desperation, the bird had tried to reach it, dooming itself in the process.

I found myself wondering how long it had taken for
the blackbird to die: secured absolutely by the solid glass confines, upside down, unable to move ...

Unable to obey a single of its inborn instincts.

I've drawn a picture from memory ...

When I posted my picture to Photobucket, they offered to print it on a mug for USD15.00. They even produced an image of what it would look like.

Tempting, no?

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